Salmon ban hits anglers, could prompt poachers |

Salmon ban hits anglers, could prompt poachers

Anglers won’t get a chance this year to fish for salmon in Central Valley rivers, including the Yuba, save for a short and severely restricted season on the Sacramento.

The closure announced recently by the California Department of Fish and Game is meant to save stocks for future years. But it also could trigger an increase in poaching, challenging state game wardens already stretched thin, said Sacramento game warden Patrick Foy.

“The price of salmon is going to skyrocket,” he said. “You’re going to see a higher demand of salmon on the black market.”

A complete sport-fishing closure for salmon was issued on the American, Feather and Yuba rivers.

“It’s not looking good at least for a couple of years,” said senior biologist for Fish and Game, Scott Barrow.

Guide J.D. Richey, who usually fishes for salmon May through December, says he is learning to adapt.

This summer, instead of fishing in the Central Valley, he’ll take clients to Lake Tahoe to fish for mackinaw.

“You have to feed the family,” Richey said.

At least 122,000 salmon are needed to spawn in rivers to provide eggs for future ocean and river salmon seasons. This year, 54,000 adults are projected to return to the Sacramento system, according to Fish and Game.

Last year, 90,000 salmon returned, compared to 880,000 in 2002. Scientists are investigating the 45 possible factors in the decline including last year’s drought, dams and diversions, predatory species and unfavorable ocean conditions.

Sport fishing generates about $2.4 billion each year in California, according to a report by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The closure of salmon fishing will have a $20-million impact, Barrow said.

Fish and Game will allow a fall Chinook limit of one fish per day on the Sacramento River above the confluence of the Feather River from Knight’s Landing to the Red Bluff Diversion Dam Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Fishing for other species, including striped bass, will be allowed.

This fall, Richey will drive north to the Klamath River where, during a normal season, fishermen stand elbow to elbow at the mouth of the river trying to hook a salmon as it migrates from the ocean.

The Klamath-Trinity system and Smith rivers are the only places in the state where salmon runs are healthy enough to allow a normal season, said Scott Barrow, fishery biologist with Fish and Game.

In 2002 the Klamath saw the largest fish kill the West has ever seen when more than 30,000 Chinook and other species died after the Bureau of Reclamation cut water releases to deliver water to farmers in the Klamath Basin.

To learn about this year’s restrictions and the reasons behind them visit and click on Salmon Fishing Update.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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